The Hope Filled Result – The Road to Calvary Comes to an End?

Under the influence of the renewed prohibition by the Holy See, the National Commission also returned to the concept of an independent bishopric and at the end of 1910, together with the Standing Executive Committee of Hajdúdorog, it initiated a request for the government to bring a decision in principle for the establishment of a Hungarian Greek Catholic eparchy. This initiative apparently remained without result. On 30 June 1911, Jenő Szabó repeated the request for the foundation of the eparchy in a well-received speech in the Upper House and stated the hope that the establishment of a Hungarian Greek Catholic bishopric would legalize the existing practice of a Hungarian language Liturgy. Answering for the government, János Zichy, the Minister of Religion and Public Education, assured the Hungarian Greek Catholics that he was favorably inclined toward their efforts. On the other hand, he continued to give voice to the position that the authorization of the Holy See for the use of the Hungarian language must occur first and only afterwards could there be consideration for the foundation of an eparchy. Perhaps the minister was not yet aware that Prime Minister Károly Khuen-Héderváry, based on King Franz Joseph’s instructions, had initiated secret talks with the Holy See on the establishment of a new eparchy for the Hungarian Greek Catholics. After the initial favorable reactions by the Holy See and at the time of Jenő Szabó’s speech, the Hungarian government wanted to obtain the approval of the Holy See and make it public as soon as possible. The initiative of the National Commission and the Standing Executive Committee was received by the government, when it, together with the ruler, was preparing for the debate in Parliament of highly significant legislation. Among these, the most important was the new defense bill, the acceptance of which by the Parliament appeared to be doubtful. In order to gain the support of the political parties the ruler need to make a gesture that expressed his concern for the Hungarian nation. Through his support for the Hungarian Greek Catholics long held wishes, the national character of which was unassailable, the ruler could hope to win the favor of the Parliament. However, since the agreement of the Holy See was necessary, the ruler by passed the diplomatic channels, and made inquires at the Holy See through the good offices of Bertalan Lippay, painter, Count of Pápa, and Chamberlain. Later, but still secretly, he formally took up the necessary negotiations with Rome through Prime Minister Khuen-Hederváry. The Prime Minister explained with complete openness to the Holy See that the formation of an independent eparchy for Hungarian Greek Catholics had very important domestic implications and how appreciative the ruler would be, if the Holy See could help him realize his plans. The Hungarian government also understood that the negotiations would require much time but beginning with the summer of 1911 it asked repeatedly from the Holy See that for domestic political reasons it be allowed to make public the permission for the establishment of the new eparchy as soon as possible. The Holy See, on the other hand, desired to avoid the public announcement until the government provided Rome with the necessary guarantees, not only on the financing of the eparchy but also on the question of the prohibition of the Hungarian language Liturgy.


A request for the opinion of the Conference of Bishops was a part of the negotiations, and this was provided on 9 November. Two decades earlier the Hungarian Greek Catholics had been deeply troubled by the bishops’ rejection of their aspirations. This time, however, every bishop was aware of the ruler’s determination, and the approval of the supporting resolution was never in doubt. The request of Franz Joseph was submitted to the Holy See by János Csernoch, the newly appointed Archbishop of Kalocsa (1911-1913). In it, the liturgical language was designated as Ancient Greek. The bishops of the Romanian Greek Catholic metropolia were present at the meeting of the Conference of Bishops. They included: Archbishop Viktor Mihályi, Bishop of Nagyvárad Demetriu Radu, and  Bishop of Szamosujvár Vasile Hossu, who also voted for the formation of the new eparchy. In their letter to Alessandro Bavona, the Vienna nuncio (1911-1912), they said, “ …we welcomed the plan with sympathy [the establishment of an eparchy for the Hungarian Greek Catholics] and we did not protest when they desired to transfer some seventy parishes from our archdiocesan province to the new eparchy … “  At the same time, they asked the nuncio to prevent the precise delineation of the religious communities to be transferred without their participation. In the months that followed, however, they took steps together to represent their interests, were able to change the already delineated boundaries of the eparchy , and to recover the religious communities that they desired. In this way, they were able to draw the Holy See’s attention to their assertion that although the liturgical language of the new eparchy will be Ancient Greek, it will in any event serve the goal of Hungarianization. Demitriu Radu, Bishop of Nagyvárad (1903-1920), in particular, stridently assailed the planned eparchy, which led to conflict with the new Vienna nuncio Francesco Rossi-Stockalper, who had replaced Cardinal Bavon after his death on 12 January 1912. The chargé de’affairs ad interim already notified the Holy See in February 1912 that bishop Radu not only incites the clergy of the eparchy against the planned eparchy but has also contacted Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne, and asked him to intercede. The representatives of the Romanian National Party did the same. The heir to the throne has decided to support the Romanians entirely and has instructed Ludwig von Pastor, the head of the Austrian Institute for History at Rome, to try to get the Holy See to block the creation of the new eparchy. This sterile effort caused considerable annoyance in Vatican circles.


The negotiations were also distracted by a newspaper article, which on 9 February published the sensational, but false, news that the Holy See had agreed to the use of Hungarian as a liturgical language. This forced the Holy See to proceed cautiously, and the Hungarian government could only dispel the doubts after months of negotiations and written guarantees. The successful completion of the negotiations was published in the newspapers on 13 April 1912. Subsequently, King Franz Joseph, as  supreme patron of the Hungarian Roman Catholic Church and in accordance with the prescriptions of Hungarian law, on 6 May 1912 founded the Eparchy of Hajdúdorog. On 8 June Pope St. Pius X (1903-1914) in the bull Christifideles graeci preconized it. The introduction to the bull explained the need for the foundation of the Eparchy of Hajdúdorog. The Byzantine Rite Catholics of Hungary had always given testimony of their loyalty to the faith and to their allegiance to the Holy See. At the same time, the popes promoted their development through the expansion of their ecclesiastical organizations, and when necessary, founded new eparchies for them. For this reason, Pope Pius IX founded the Eparchies of Lugos and Szamosujvár for the Romanian Greek Catholics, as well as the Metropolia of Gyulafehérvár-Fogaras. The bull stated that among the faithful following the Byzantine Rite the number of those using the Hungarian language had grown significantly and that they had persistently asked the Holy See to create an eparchy for them. The fulfillment of their entreaties had become pressing for two reasons: 1. So that religion, peace and unity will be enhanced among those Byzantine Rite believers, who speak different languages; 2. So that the danger of using national languages for the Liturgy, which the popes have already repeatedly condemned, will be removed. The bull establishing the eparchy emphasized that the Hungarian language will never be allowed to be used in the Liturgy. The liturgical language of the new eparchy will be Ancient Greek. The national language may be used to the same degree as it is permitted by the Holy See for the Western Church. The official liturgical language will only need to be implemented after three years, during which time each priest is required to learn it. Until that time the services can be celebrated the language that is currently being used but not in the Hungarian language. Therefore, according to the Holy See, the objective of the new eparchy is precisely the suppression of the use of the Hungarian language in the Liturgy.


The Holy See assigned 162 parishes to the Eparchy of Hajdúdorog. Of these, one had belonged to the Archdiocese of Esztergom, eight to Eperjes, seventy to Munkács, four to Szamosujvár, forty-four to Nagyvárad, and thirty-five to Fogaras. Based on the census of 1910, the faithful in the new eparchy numbered 215,498. These included 183,757 who spoke Hungarian, 26,823 Romanian, 1,623 Slovakian, 968 Ruthenian, and 2,509 members of other nationalities. Forty percent, or 120,747 souls, of the Greek Catholics in Hungary, whose mother tongue was Hungarian, did not belong to the Eparchy of Hajdúdorog; two thirds of them remained under Slavonic and one third of them under Romanian bishoprics’ jurisdiction. Since the religious communities transferred from the Eparchy of Fogaras were rather distant from the bishopric’s seat, the Pope permitted the Bishop of Hajdúdorog to govern these with the assistance of a forane protosyncellus. The Pope elevated the church of Hajdúdorog to cathedral status. According to the agreement with the Hungarian government, the salaries of the bishop, the canons, and the central administrators were the responsibility of the Hungarian state. The income of the eparchies relinquishing parishes was to remain unchanged. The bull emphasized that one of the most urgent tasks was the establishment of a seminary for the forming of priests. The institution was to be financed by the government. The Eparchy of Hajdúdorog was assigned to the Archbishopric of Esztergom.

The Pope entrusted the carrying out of the provisions of the bull to Raffaele Scapinelli di Leguigno, Vienna nuncio (1912-1916), who published his directive to carry out the provisions of the bull Christofideles graeci on 17 November 1912. He notified all concerned that he had appointed the Bishop of Munkács Antal Papp to be the apostolic administrator of the new eparchy. The nuncio’s office had developed a very favorable opinion of him during the preparatory negotiations. The directive to execute the bull emphasized the measures in connection with the prohibition of the liturgical use of the Hungarian language and noted that not only the clergy must learn the Ancient Greek language but they must also make sure that the faithful participating in the liturgical services can also at least learn to read it. The Hungarian language can exclusively be used outside of the Liturgy for pious acts, private prayers, sermons, and for instructing the people.

The news of the foundation of the Eparchy of Hajdúdorog filled the Hungarian Greek Catholics with great joy. Several decades of struggle, the road to Calvary filled with disappointments, had come to an end. New roads and new perspectives opened up before them. Although it was clear that the new eparchy would confront difficult challenges, at the time of its foundation the Hungarian Greek Catholics set out on the road to independence with justifiable hopes.